After a months-long search, Penn Hillel has found two new rabbis, Rabbi Gabe Greenberg and Rabbi Elie Schwartz.
Greenberg and Schwartz both have several years of rabbinical experience and were selected for their diverse backgrounds in Judaism, Rabbi Mike Uram said. The new rabbis met with students and staff during the summer and began their roles in late August.
Their arrival follows the summer departures of Rabbi Josh Bolton, former director and senior Jewish educator for the Jewish Renaissance Project, and Rabbi Yaakov Taubes, former educator for the Orthodox Union at Penn's Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus program.
Rabbi Gabe Greenberg has seven years of experience as a Rabbi and comes to Penn from New Orleans, where he served as a rabbi for a local Jewish congregation. He is taking over the role of Director and Senior Jewish Educator for JRP, a program under Hillel which helps students explore their Jewish identities. In this new position, Greenberg said he will work with students individually to help them grapple with the meaning of being Jewish as well as approaching other important life questions.
In leading JRP, Greenberg said he recognizes that at Penn a large number of Jewish students do not enter Hillel. He hopes to create programs which make Hillel's resources available to more students.
Greenberg said his approach includes inviting students out for coffee or tea and leading group fellowships for students to explore questions of Judaism. Greenberg is also organizing bar and bat mitzvahs for Jewish students who never had them when they were younger and an alternative service for the upcoming Rosh Hashanah which will center on movement, dance, and reflection.
"There's no 'one size fits all,'" Greenberg said, "It's about how … this 4,000 year old tradition [can] be meaningful and relevant for you."
Taking over as OU-JLIC educator is Rabbi Elie Schwartz, joined by his wife Miriam Schwartz. They formerly served in the same position at the University of Maryland.
As part of the program, they were hired as a rabbinic couple to mentor Jewish students on campus, with a focus on how Orthodox Jewish students can navigate college life and their faith in a secular university.
Rabbi Mike Uram, executive director and Campus Rabbi at Penn Hillel, led the selection process, which also involved student leaders in Hillel and OU. Uram explained how this process is extensive.
To be a Hillel rabbi, Uram said, is very different from being a regular rabbi of a congregation. More than religious leaders, Penn Hillel rabbis are mentors to students whether they are Jewish or not, and are expected to engage with them on a one-on-one basis to form relationships.
"Any rabbi we hire has to have a small ego, has to be more interested in helping students shine than shining themselves," he said. "We often say, the best sermon a Hillel Rabbi could give is when a student gives the sermon."